July 06, 2017

Kara in Jeff Karp’s lab. The lab has created a glue that seals tiny holes in the heart. / Credit: Marc Sollinger

Who would’ve thought that geckos could revolutionize medical technology? Jeff Karp an associate professor at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was inspired by research in nature, most specifically by the gecko’s incredible ability to stick to vertical walls. And he realized that that ability - sticking and unsticking easily, without leaving a residue behind, like a band-aid does - could be useful in the hospital. And this nature-inspired realization was just the beginning. We visit Karp’s lab to learn about his inventions, his reverence for evolution, and his biomimetic vision.

Three Takeaways:

  • Biomimicry is the imitation of nature to help solve human problems. Karp describes nature as an “encyclopedia of solutions,” with “endless possibilities” for future invention.
  • After the development of the gecko tape, Karp invented a tissue glue that can adhere to almost any tissue in the human body. The glue is based on the evolutionary adaptations of sandcastle worms that sit on rocks in the sea. When waves hit them, they stay attached. Many slugs and snails also secrete a glue that allows them to stick to rain-covered leaves.
  • Karp’s work is inspired by the regenerative potential in certain animals, like sharks regenerating teeth, lizards regrowing tails, and frogs and other amphibians regaining their hearing throughout their lifespan.

More Reading:

Biomimicry, The Karp Lab, Jeff Karp, innovation hub, Spider-Man, Geckos, Kara Miller, WGBH, Sci and Tech, pri

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